News & Analysis

IAEA mission to Malaysia finds commitment to nuclear security

24th October 2022
Sheryl Miles

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team said Malaysia was committed to improving its national nuclear security regime, including by strengthening coordination between relevant national authorities and by enhancing radiation detection capabilities at its borders.

The team, which have concluded a nuclear security mission to the country, encouraged Malaysia to further develop some of its nuclear security plans and procedures, supported by a more comprehensive programme of training and exercises for nuclear security bodies.

The International Nuclear Security Advisory Service (INSServ), conducted from 11 – 21 October, was the second INSServ mission to the country, the first being in 2004. It was carried out at the request of the Government of Malaysia and hosted by the Department of Atomic Energy Malaysia (Atom Malaysia), the country’s regulatory body for radiation and nuclear safety, nuclear security and safeguards.

The mission team reviewed the country’s legislative and regulatory arrangements to prevent, detect and respond to criminal and other intentional unauthorised acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control. It also assessed related roles and responsibilities of Atom Malaysia, the coordination between stakeholders, arrangements for national nuclear security detection and response systems, and the security of Malaysia’s borders to protect against nuclear security threats.

INSServ missions focus on nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control (MORC). This can be a result of theft, improper disposal or negligence. Malaysia uses radioactive sources in medical applications, industry, food processing and education and research. It also operates a number of major international seaports, such as the Port of Penang, through which thousands of goods containers and cruise passengers enter and leave Malaysia each year.

“Malaysia’s continuous quest to improve its nuclear security infrastructure was made clear during this INSServ mission,” said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “The experts’ assessment confirmed the progress made, especially with regard to the existing national framework in relation to MORC and nuclear security detection capabilities and identified areas of further improvement.”

The ten-day mission was led by Anayat Ullah, Head of the Radioactive Materials and Facilities and Materials Out of Regulatory Control Section at the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority, and included six other nuclear security experts from France, Spain, United Kingdom, United States of America and Viet Nam, as well as one IAEA staff member.

“This INSServ mission was supported by the openness, transparency and professional communication from our counterparts in Malaysia, which enabled us to work effectively and carry out a rigorous assessment,” said Ullah.

The INSServ team met in Selangor, 40km south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, with senior officials from Atom Malaysia as well as from the Royal Malaysia Police, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia, Chief Government Security Office, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Health, and the National Security Council.

The mission also included site visits to the Royal Malaysia Police Forensics Laboratory in Kuala Lumpur, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department in the Port of Penang, and the Malaysia–Thailand border at Bukit Kayu Hitam. During these visits the INSServ team observed Malaysia’s nuclear security capabilities relevant to MORC and some of the practices and procedures designed to protect Malaysia against nuclear security threats.

The INSServ team made several recommendations to Malaysia to enhance its nuclear security regime in relation to MORC, such as the adoption of a more comprehensive training and exercise programme for nuclear security bodies. The team also identified a number of good practices, including the establishment of a national framework for nuclear security encompassing relevant laws, regulations and directives relevant to MORC, Malaysia’s effective system to disseminate information to the public and media, and to encourage the reporting of security issues by the users of radioactive material, as well as the effective radiation screening of all import and export cargo at Penang Port.

“Malaysia welcomed the thorough evaluation of the overall nuclear security framework by the IAEA INSServ team,” said Monalija Kostor, acting Director General of Atom Malaysia. “We look forward to using the mission’s findings and recommendations to further strengthen our nuclear security controls.”

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